Nostalgia is proving to be a powerful sales tool. Just look at the success of the retro-cruiser, Plymouth Prowler. So it makes sense that a company like Jaguar, so steeped in tradition, would consult the past for inspiration. In this case, Jaguar has chosen to revive one of its most famous sport sedan nameplates, the S-Type. Of course, automobiles and people have changed quite a bit since the original S-Type’s 1960s heyday. So, can this new S-Type do justice to its famous sporting name, while still providing today’s fickle luxury car crowd with the refinement they demand?
Don’t let its semi-retro appearance fool you. The 2000-model-year Jaguar S-Type is the most sophisticated sedan to ever roll out of Jaguar’s legendary Castle Bromwich assembly plant. But it’s that styling that first catches your eye. A look that strongly echoes the lines of the S-Type and Mark II models of the 1960s, especially in the unmistakably Jaguar grille, that’s topped with the company’s famous “leaper” and the long sculpted “bonnet” with very vintage-looking hood bulges flowing back from each headlight. The rear view is a little more contemporary, but still projects an air of “Jaguar-ness” with its drooping fenders, chrome accents and sloping roofline.
Unfortunately, the side view is where the styling falls down, looking more like parent company Ford’s mainstream family sedan, than a top-line luxury sport sedan. One that rides on the same platform as the upcoming Lincoln LS, with a long 114.5-inch wheelbase, but a trim overall length of 191.3 inches.
Power for the S-type comes from a pair of potent, twin-cam, all-aluminum engines. Top-of-the-bill is Jaguar’s proven 4.0-liter 32-valve V8 with 281 horsepower and 287 pound-feet of torque. But Jaguar expects the top seller to be this 3.0-liter V6, that generates 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque. Dubbed AJ-V6, this new 24-valve engine is a much modified version of Ford’s familiar Duratec V6, and Jaguar’s first V-shaped 6-cylinder ever!
Both engines use a new, electronically-controlled, 5-speed automatic transmission that has been jointly developed by Ford and Jaguar. It may be new, but still uses Jaguar’s J-gate shifter that allows manual gear selection. This should propel the V8-powered S-type to 60 in a claimed 6.6-seconds. Owners of V6-powered cars will see 60 in a slightly longer 8-seconds flat.
Our first drive, in both V6 and V8-equipped S-Types, showed the reborn model to be very much a Jaguar. By that, we mean a very balanced blend of sport and luxury.
The V6 engine feels both smoother and much stronger than its Ford Taurus relative. While the V8 displays impressive low-down punch, without losing the refined feel that has already impressed us in its XJ and XK applications.
The combination of a mostly aluminum double-wishbone suspension, and almost perfectly even front-to-rear weight balance, gives the S-Type quite a sporty feel. Especially if buyers choose the optional $1,100 Sport Package, which adds uprated springs and computer controlled shock absorbers, as well as larger 17-inch aluminum wheels.
Front plow is generally mild, even in tight corners. Though with an extra 40 pounds, and 41 horsepower in its nose, the V8 S-Type starts pushing earlier in the corner than its V6 sibling.
The car tracks very precisely, and must be pushed very hard before the tail starts to slide in a gentle, controlled manner. The only letdown is the variably-assisted power steering, which is perfectly weighted, but unfortunately delivers little feel. It’s a very capable car, that still delivers a fine luxury ride. Though with a weight of around 3,700 pounds, the S-Type is no lightweight.
Brakes are 4-wheel disc, with standard anti-lock, naturally. They team up with the standard all-speed traction control when you order the Dynamic Stability Control System. DSC uses yaw and steering sensors to detect when the car is not making a high speed corner the way the driver intended. When needed, brakes and throttle are used to invisibly keep the car in line. However, like all stability systems, DSC cannot change the laws of physics.
But Jaguars have always been much more than performance cars. And the S-Type maintains that tradition, with a stylish interior that features more wood and leather than Buckingham Palace. As well as very modern safety features like chest and head side airbags.
The dash is all smooth, contemporary lines. There’s hardly a right angle to be seen. The gauges are large and readable, but quite sparse. But the dominating feature is the huge center pod. It looks confusing at first, but is really quite well laid out. The large, clear stereo controls sit up high, and close to the driver, while the available 6-disc CD changer is out of the way but still accessible in the glove box. To the right of the stereo sits the optional navigation system, which can include the new Jaguar Assist emergency message system, while spread out below are the standard dual-zone climate controls. Which, along with the stereo and optional telephone, can be operated with Jaguar’s new Voice Activated Control system.
But comfort has not been forgotten amid all this technology. The power-operated bucket seats may be the best in Jaguar’s history, while the leather and wood steering wheel offers a feeling of pure luxury.
The luxury theme continues in the S-Type’s rear seat. But unfortunately, so does the Jaguar tradition of marginal head and leg room. The trunk offers no such disappointment, with a usable 13.1 cubic-feet of space.
To own this newest of the big cats, be prepared to pay a base price of $42,500 for a V6-powered S-Type. Opt for the V8, and the bidding starts at $48,000. Quite reasonable by Jaguar standards. Though if you add on all available options, the price can rise to $58,500, so be careful which ones you choose.
The S-Type is a truly impressive effort. So impressive in fact, that Automobile Magazine said it is: “... not only the best Jaguar ever built, but one that could shoulder its way to the very top of the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.”
The 2000 Jaguar S-Type sedan offers buyers both vintage style and cutting edge technology, pure driving excitement, and pure unadulterated luxury. It’s a genuine sport sedan, and a genuine luxury car. That should be enough to please any of today’s Jaguar fans, and probably quite a few of yesterday’s, as well.
Engine: 4.0-Liter 32-valve V8
Torque: 287 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.6 Seconds